All the horses entered in the 139th Kentucky Derby have proven themselves qualified with wins this year to "Run For The Roses," and the lineup of thoroughbreds looks like one of the very best in years. Of course, only three of the 20 will finish in the money at Churchill Downs. Here are the top five favorites to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby:
1. Verrazano (my favorite)Given that he's at 9:2, and with four impressive wins this year -- including the Wood Memorial -- this big, muscular horse is my favorite. Aboard Verrazano will be the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, John Velazquez, an experienced jockey who knows how to win the big ones. A concern is that the veteran jockey was injured in a fall in early April. He didn't get back to the track until just a few days ago. With the kind of tough competition he faces, I'm depending on his return to top physical shape in time to score a win.
2. OrbListed at 5:1, he comes to Kentucky with a record of winning three straight races, including the Florida Derby. Orb will be ridden by Joel Rosario, now ranked third among active jockeys, who has won first place in more than 25% of his races this year. Rumors coming from Orb's spectacular midweek workouts at Churchill Downs predict this three-year-old's odds at race time may improve dramatically. I'll take that into consideration when I place my bets, along with his two wins in the prep races leading up to the Derby: The Florida Derby and the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth, both at Gulfstream Park.
3. RevolutionaryWith odds listed at 7:1, this horse has also won three in a row, including the recent Louisiana Derby. Living up to his fighting name, Revolutionary often lags at the beginning of his races, then bolts aggressively through the pack on the stretch to spectacular wins. Jockey Carvin Borel will need to make sure the other horses don't box him in when the big colt makes his move. Borel is no stranger to the winner's circle at Churchill Downs, winning the Derby in 2010 riding Super Saver and winning the 2009 Kentucky Oaks aboard Rachel Alexandra.
4. GoldencentsCurrently at 7:1, Goldencents was very impressive in his recent win of the Santa Anita Derby in April, a race I attended here in Southern California. And this was after another win there in January. Jockey Kevin Krigger is a native of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. If he crosses the finish line first at the Kentucky Derby, he'll be the first African-American to win the venerable race since Jimmy Winkfield did it in 1902. I also like the fact that trainer Doug O'Neill won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness last year with I'll Have Another.
5. VyjackAt 14:1 for the Kentucky Derby, Vyjack won his first four races this year, including the Gotham Stakes. Since then, his record is five wins and four also-rans, so he'll need to improve to have a chance against this year's strong field. Jockey Garrett Gomez, at age 41, will be the oldest in the race, but is very much still at the top of his form. He has racked up a 25-year record of more than 3,000 wins on racetracks throughout the world and I like that experience. Though not really a long-shot, I do think Vyjack has the potential to surprise us all and continue that winning form as seen at Aqueduct.
(Odds based on the Wynn Las Vegas odds as published by the Louisville Courier-Journal.)
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